A recent tropical storm in New Jersey has brought attention to just how important a successful digital communication strategy is for utility providers.
According to a new report from NJ Spotlight, 1.4 million households were left without power after Tropical Storm Isaias made its way across the east coast of the US last week. Utility providers in the area have come under scrutiny for their efforts in responding to the storm.
What exactly happened in New Jersey following the storm?
The state of New Jersey was pummelled by Tropical Storm Isaias last week as it downed utility poles, destroyed trees, damaged high-power transitions lines and left a huge number of customers without power for days.
The response left local officials calling for an investigation into why more than 1 million customers in the state were left without power after the storm had passed, despite utilities spending billions of dollars upgrading the power grid following Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Commissioners in New Jersey have also complained that some utilities in the state had problems communicating accurate information about outages, and when power would be restored to their customers.
Speaking to NJ Spotlight, Bob Gordon, a Commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said: “In the 21st Century, you have to call your utility to let them know your power is out. That’s just crazy.”
Why is digital communication important for utilities?
In order to not fall significantly behind other industries, utility providers have realized that it’s crucial they focus on the customer experience (CX) if they are to improve customer satisfaction metrics.
Successful digital communication is the very foundation of a superior customer experience.
Digital communication is important for all elements of utility customer interaction, but perhaps it’s most crucial when it comes to storm outages. Communication doesn’t prevent an outage from occurring (although it can help make utilities aware of any issues through AMI and smart metering connectivity), but it does improve how customers view your utility.
By improving communication before, during and after a power outage, customers will see your utility as more reliable,credible, and trustworthy, resulting in significantly more satisfied customers. If they know that you are aware there’s an outage and that the utility service is actively working on it, they will be far less frustrated than if they were to have no communication from your utility.
How can utility providers improve digital communication efforts?
In the past, sending communication directly to utility customers was complex. It involved mailing letters or making thousands of calls. It simply wasn’t viable to notify your customers at each stage of an outage.
Technology has evolved dramatically since then, and utilities are now making the most of utility customer portals to improve outage notifications and communications with their customers, in general.
Take the SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities, for example – using our customer portal you can send notifications and alerts directly to your customer’s preferred device. In other words, they can get the answers to their questions and be kept up-to-date when their utility is experiencing an outage.
Customers understand that your utility isn’t able to control the weather and that you can’t guarantee 100 percent uptime, but that doesn’t mean they are happy to be left out of the loop when their power is down. Frequent and valuable communication is the answer to satisfied utility customers because it lets them know that the utility is proactively handling the event.
It’s not just power outages where digital communication is important either. Customer portals can be used to simplify eBilling, improve utility customer engagement, and send utility usage analytics that help your customer save money or cut down their carbon footprint.
These are all communication features that significantly improve your utility’s CX.
Are you interested in learning more about how a digital communication strategy is essential for your utility, and how the SilverBlaze Customer Portal for Utilities can help? The SilverBlaze team of experts would love to help. Contact us today.